Boosting Banana Bread: 5 Ways to Enhance Your Favorite Recipe

Recipes for banana bread are some of the most popular and requested on our site. There’s something about the sweetness, the moist, tender crumb, and banana bread’s familiar flavor that evokes the ultimate in baked comfort foods.

Banana bread is one of the first breads many bakers make, due to its simplicity and easy preparation. It’s versatile, fitting in at breakfast, lunch, snack, or dessert. Just like the little black dress or a Burberry trench coat, it can be dressed up or down depending on your mood and what’s in your closet – or in this case, pantry.

As we grow as bakers, we’re always on the lookout for ways to play with and update our favorite recipes. Let’s look at five different ways you can enhance your favorite banana bread recipe with ingredients you probably already have on hand.

All the measurements are based on a typical banana bread recipe with 2 to 3 bananas, baked in a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.

How to Enhance your Banana Bread via @kingarthurflour

1. Use overripe bananas for better banana bread.

Which banana is top banana? Actually, it’s the bottom one.

The banana at the top is still quite green and not ripe for eating. The middle banana would be fine for eating; but the darker banana covered in brown spots has ripened the most and will have more flavor and sweetness, giving you more bang for your buck.

How to Enhance your Banana Bread via @kingarthurflour
Clockwise, from top: raspberry jam, orange marmalade, caramel ice cream topping.

2. Jam in some jam.

To upgrade your banana bread from everyday to exceptional, try adding 1/2 cup of jam, jelly, marmalade, or caramel sauce to the batter when you mix in your mashed bananas.

Nearly everyone has a jar of jam in the fridge; why not put it to use besides plain ol’ toast?

How to Enhance your Banana Bread via @kingarthurflour

3. Go the extra mile with extracts.

No jam on hand today? 1/4 teaspoon of an extra strong flavor or oil can really change the direction your bread takes.

Subtle flavors like butter rum or praline can give your bread a hint of “What IS that lovely taste?” while stronger flavors like cinnamon and peanut butter are more standout.

How to Enhance your Banana Bread via @kingarthurflour
Clockwise, from top left: buttermilk powder, coconut milk powder, unsweetened baking cocoa.

4. Pow! Powders to the party.

One of the best things about the humble banana is how it changes character depending on its surroundings. Paired with coconut milk powder it’s immediately tropical; while cocoa powder makes it more mainstream American lunchbox.  Simply adding 1/3 cup of either, or some perky buttermilk powder, will take your baked banana bread in a whole new direction.

How to Enhance your Banana Bread via @kingarthurflour
Clockwise from top left: cinnamon chips, shredded coconut, diced dried dates, chocolate chips, mini white chocolate chips.

5. Chip in the add-ins.

Chips, nuts, and dried fruits can give each bite of your bread toothsome, pleasant crunch. Adding 1 cup of inclusions (a fancy way of saying tasty, crunchy, chewy bits) won’t harm the structure of your bread at all. You’ll still get the same good rise and even bake, with the added bonus of flavor, flavor, flavor.

When adding nuts, toast them first for the fullest flavor. Simply place the nuts in an ungreased skillet over medium heat and stir constantly until they begin to brown and smell fragrant, about 5 to 8 minutes. Cool them slightly before adding to your batter.

Keep in mind that we’re talking 1 total cup of inclusions, not 1 cup each of all of your favorites.

How to Enhance your Banana Bread via @kingarthurflour
Clockwise from top: raw sugar, pearl sugar, sparkling white sugar.  

6. Bonus tip: Add a tantalizing topping.

A sweet, crunchy topping can be that little bit of a bonus that sends your bread over the top. Choose a sugar with a larger crystal size for more impact. Sparkling white sugar stays clear and shiny, dressing up your bread for special occasions, while pearl sugar looks like tiny snowdrops.

Check out our specialty sugars blog post for more details on choosing one to suit you.

How to Enhance your Banana Bread via @kingarthurflour

For all-out, all-over appeal, consider making a streusel topping for your next loaf. You can use a topping recipe from crumb cake, coffeecake or apple crisp if you like, or simply combine equal portions of butter, sugar and flour for a simple white streusel.

For example: 1/4 cup butter, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1/4 cup flour makes plenty of streusel for topping one loaf.

Of course, you can step up your streusel, too. Consider adding one or two drops of an extract such as coconut or vanilla butternut, or substituting 2 to 3 tablespoons of coconut milk powder for some of the flour. Not only will your banana bread be attractive, it will taste delectable as well.

This bread is SO ready for its closeup!  A combination of 1/2 cup caramel sauce, 1 cup chocolate chips, and coconut streusel turned our basic recipe into a truly creative creation. The coconut streusel is the same basic ratio as listed above, just replacing 2 tablespoons of the flour with 2 tablespoons of coconut milk powder.

BananaBread

We hope you’ll find time to add some of these enhancements to your next batch of banana bread. If you already have a favorite banana booster, please do share it in the comments below. Better banana bread awaits!

MaryJane Robbins
About

MaryJane Robbins grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont 20 years ago. After teaching young children for 15 years, she changed careers and joined King Arthur Flour in 2005. MaryJane began working on King Arthur Flour's baker’s hotline in 2006, and the blog team ...

comments

  1. Anonymous

    Can you add a combination of jam, nuts and dried fruit to any regular banana bread recipe or do you have to cut back on some ingredients?

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid

      Jam adds both liquid and sugar, so depending on how much you use, it may be wise to cut back on the sugar by 3/4 the amount of jam you use. For example, 1/4 cup of jam added, decrease sugar by 3 tablespoons. Nuts and dried fruit don’t really alter things other than increasing the baking time by a tiny amount (more volume to get up to the right internal temperature). Hope this helps you out. Susan

  2. Beth

    The best banana bread trick is to microwave the bananas for a few minutes, drain all the liquid into a pan, and reduce it down into a sweet syrup.

    Both the liquid and microwaved banana solids are added back into the batter.

    I wish I could take credit for this life changing banana bread, but alas, it was Cooks Illustrated!

    Reply
  3. Lars

    Banana bread (banana loaf) is a bit more dense and heavier than baanna cake. Both are very moist and that comes from the baannas themselves. Be sure to use ripe baannas (the ones that have the dark skins, that look like they should be thrown out they are much sweeter when they are like that.)My grandmother used to make the most delicious baanna cake. It used cake pastry flour (not all purpose flour), and it was light and tender, not as heavy as baanna bread. I have made it, and I liked it with a buttercream frosting or a 7-minute icing that is done in a doube boiler.So many people rave about carrot cake (which is delicious, no question about that), but baanna cake is in a class of its own if it is HOME MADE (from scratch, not from a mix.)

    Reply
  4. rockycat

    Are you sure that the proportions for the streusel recipe are correct? I have a batch in the oven now, but I had to adjust the streusel. I made it as noted with 1/4 c. sugar, 1/4 c. butter, 2 T flour, and 2 T coconut milk powder. What I got was a slick, buttery mess. I checked other streusel recipes on the KA site and saw that, for the most part, the recipes call for 3/4 c. flour to 6 T butter. That would mean that for 4 T butter we’d want 1/2 c. flour, not 1/4 c. flour. When I added in a few more spoons of flour I got something that looked more like streusel and less like a sweet spread. I’m hoping that the coconut flavor does not get lost with the added flour.

    Could you double check and see what the correct amount of flour should be?

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins, post author

      Hi there,
      The general rule of thumb for a white streusel, which this is based on, is equal parts of butter, sugar and flour. Because you are using coconut milk powder to replace half of the flour, you’d get 1/4 cup butter, 1/4 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons each of flour and powder. As always, if you need more flour to get a more crumbly consistency due to heat, humidity, etc. that’s pretty normal too. ~ MJ

  5. Helen Kintner

    I like Ina Garten’s recipe for Banana Crunch Muffins that calls for mashing 1 banana, & dicing the other 2. I also use half AP flour & half white whole wheat, sub out some of the butter with coconut oil, & add 1/4c oatmeal.

    Reply
  6. Cassie

    I was looking for banana bread recipes and thought I would check King Arthur. So happy I did!! I really enjoyed these tips!! I believe anyone can glean valuable baking tips and skills reading this! Thank you so very much!
    Must be the teacher in you!

    Reply
  7. Cindy

    I scoop my batter into whoopie pie pans to make muffies. I make double batches and freeze the extras for a quick breakfast.

    Reply
  8. Sherry25705

    Best banana bread I ever made was with whole wheat flour and yogurt. I make it each Christmas for gifts. It is my go to banana bread recipe because of the wonderful moistness, keeping power, and above all taste!! I’m going to try some of the jams, and how about Applesauce?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Treat applesauce just like you would jam–add in up to 1/2 cup for some additional sweetness and moistness in your banana bread. If you do this, you could also consider holding back about 1/2 of the oil called for in the recipe since applesauce acts like a natural oil replacer in quick bread recipes. This will give you a slightly healthier, low-fat version of your favorite banana bread recipe. Feel free to throw caution to the wind and just add in the applesauce with the full amount of oil too if you would like to make a super moist bread; with all the extra liquid it might need 5-8 minutes of additional baking. Good luck! Kye@KAF

  9. Carolyn

    The recipe I use calls for 1 3/4 cups flour. I use 1 cup gluten-free flour and 3/4 cup King Arthur Ancient Grains Flour. It is spectacular. Thank you so much for offering a healthy alternative to regular flour that also tastes great!

    Reply

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